By Alexa Tucker
When you’re working out for weight loss, seeing results can reassure you that your hard work is paying off. But when the scale stalls, what gives? Hitting a plateau can be a totally normal—and utterly frustrating—part of the weight-loss journey. But it could also be a sign that small mistakes in your current plan are hindering your progress. Even if your routine was working for you before, these minor things can catch up with you when you reach a certain fitness level.
Don’t get discouraged—troubleshooting some of these pitfalls can help get you back on track and motivate you to keep going. Here are seven common mistakes to watch out for, and how to fix them.
1. You walk into the gym without a plan.
Walking into the gym without a plan is like walking into a presentation without notes—it’s hard to stay focused when you don’t have a solid idea of what you’re supposed to be focused on. Plus, having a plan ensures that you’ll be spending your exercise time in the most strategic way, explainsDiana Mitrea, NYC-based trainer and co-founder of Stronger With Time. To continue seeing progress you need to first know what’s going on, so think about what muscles you focused on during your last session and make sure you’re hitting all of your muscle groups over the course of a week. Also, recall how much weight you used—can you increase it this time? Planning your workout in advance makes it easier to keep track of what you should be doing.
Seamlessly flowing from one exercise to the next according to that day’s workout agenda also has calorie-burning benefits. Minimizing the rest you take in between exercises (that is, not spending five minutes deciding what to do next) keeps your heart rate higher, which translates to an overall greater caloric burn. If you’re doing a HIIT circuit, for example, taking the right amount of rest is key to making them effective—it should be just enough to help you recover so you can go all-out in your next work period, but not so much that your heart rate drops out of the moderate-intensity zone (here are some guidelines on how much rest you should take).
“Having a plan is [also] helpful because you can push yourself to finish your workout,” explains Mitrea. Knowing what’s on tap for the day keeps you on track toward a specific goal—you’re less likely to throw in the towel early when you know what you’ve got to do in order to get the routine done.
2. You’re getting distracted by your group text or Instagram feed.
Repeat after us: airplane mode. “If you’re on your phone at the gym, you’re not pushing your intensity. Try to disconnect and give that one hour to yourself and your body,” says Mitrea. This will help make sure you stay focused, which will help reduce the risk of injury and make sure that you’re not taking too much time to rest between exercises. It also helps to make sure you’re not wasting time at the gym, Mitrea adds. Unfortunately, looking at leg day memes isn’t the same as actual leg day (and taking pictures of your sneakers doesn’t exactly help you make progress, either).
3. You’re focusing too much on cardio.
Cardio can be a super helpful weight-loss tool, but keep in mind that when you lose weight, your body doesn’t just burn fat—you can lose muscle mass, too. Incorporating strength training helps you maintain and gain muscle mass, and that’s a major part of a successful weight-loss equation, too. More muscle mass takes more energy for your body to maintain, so you burn more calories at rest—this is called your basal metabolic rate. If you’re losing too much muscle mass, you reduce your basal metabolic rate, which can lead to a plateau. Here are 10 tips for getting started with a strength-training routine.
4. You’re not tracking your workouts.
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers on the scale when you’re working out for weight loss, but Mitrea recommends keeping track of the numbers you see in the gym, too. This can ensure you’re pushing your body to do more as you improve, so you’re constantly upping the ante (and that leads to results).
“I always urge people to track ‘NSV’—AKA, non-scale victories,” says Mitrea. “These are things that improve that have nothing to do with the scale, like being able to do a certain number of push-ups or being able to squat a specific number of pounds for the first time. These are important things that can keep you motivated even more than the numbers on the scale.”
“You can log your results in your phone or a physical notebook. Record the day and specify how much weight you lifted, how much time you spent doing a certain exercise, or the distance you went,” she explains. By seeing what you’ve done in the past, you can get a picture of how far you’ve come and where you want to improve, and this can encourage you to keep improving your fitness level.
5. You do the same workout every day.
If you only do the same workout you’ll stop seeing progress as your body will adapt to this routineas it becomes the new normal. “Variety in your workout routine can challenge you and push you in new ways,” says Mitrea. “If you normally run, have you tried indoor cycling for cardio instead? What about yoga? One of the best ways to jump start your system back into full gear is finding a new workout,” says Mitrea.
If you can’t dream of giving up your favorite routine, focus on finding new ways to keep increasing the challenge. Try grabbing a heavier set of dumbbells, increasing your mileage, or changing up your pace.
6. You’re not working at an intensity that’s challenging for you now.
As you get stronger so should your workouts, and just because you’re breaking a sweat doesn’t mean you’re working as intensely as you should be. “Remember, what you put in is what you get out,” says Mitrea. Keeping track of your heart rate is a great way to monitor how hard you’re working. While you don’t need to give 100 percent effort every day, you should be making sure your intensity matches up with the workout you’re doing. This will help you make sure you’re working as hard as you need to do burn significant calories (and ignite that afterburn effect). Consider investing in a heart-rate monitor, which will help keep tabs on your intensity to make sure you’re working in the appropriate target heart rate zone (here’s how to figure out what that looks like for you).
7. You’re just going through the motions.
If you are dreading your workout, chances are your energy levels are going to reflect that lack of enthusiasm, explains Mitrea. Try reframing your approach: Think about fitness as a way to meet your goals, on the scale and in the gym.
And remember, just because you’re experiencing a plateau right now, it doesn’t mean you’ll never see progress again. Take this as an opportunity to hit the reset button and re-evaluate what’s been working and what hasn’t been. Making strategic tweaks to your workout strategy can yield big results, so if you’re feeling stuck, look at what you can change—before you know it, you’ll be powering through your plateau.
Source: SELF Magazine | not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide